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For Tonight She Sings

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She wakes, gasping for breath, and it is dark. She expects this, because it is always the same. There is always darkness until she pushes the door open. Outside the light is fading, and though she would like to stay and watch, she cannot. She climbs down from her resting place, shutting the door behind her. When she reaches the bottom, she finds the door to the house, dark and quiet, waiting for her. As soon as she steps inside, the lights flare to life, though at this point they are still dim.

She walks further inside, knowing there is someone waiting for her and unable to resist searching them out. As she walks, she begins to hum a familiar tune, the one that haunts her dreams every time she sleeps. The shadows in the room begin to recede as the lights brighten, and her humming turns to singing. She does not know where the words come from or what they mean, only that they must be sung.

She can see the rooms as she passes through them now, barren and lifeless, though she knows that will not last long. This part always takes longer than she thinks it should, because seen from the outside, the house doesn't look like it could possibly be that big. The longer she walks, the louder she sings, and the walls begin to take on a reddish hue. The house is filled with an eeriness it never has in the light of day, but also with life.

The walls begin to pulse, and this is the point where it becomes difficult. Her steps slow, and she sways unsteadily as the very air around her seems to pound with the rhythm of the song. She wishes she could stop for a moment, but during the night, there is no rest for the likes of her; she must continue on because there is nothing else she can do.

The corridors are long, and as she walks, she begins to feel the inevitable pain. It starts in her feet, a burning sensation, as if she's been walking too long, and continues up her body the closer she gets to the center of the house. She knows she is nearing the end when it becomes difficult to breathe, when she feels like she cannot continue the song one moment longer. She staggers toward the doorway in front of her, the last one, nearly choking on the final notes before her voice gives out and she stumbles to her knees just inside the room. For one more night, she has made it.

In the center of the room, there is a bed, covered in sheets of a dark velvety green that contrast beautifully with the skin of the pale woman lying naked on top of them. Her pain is forgotten at the sight of the woman, the one she's been searching for. In the silence, she drags herself to the bed, and the woman lies still on the bed, unmoving and barely breathing.

There are vines twined around the woman's limbs, red (though she knows they should be green) and pulsing with the same life as that in the walls. There is precious little time to waste, with the walls pumping full of life and the woman's nearly gone, but she takes a moment just to look. There are never any words between them, because she never arrives before the end, but she relishes this time where just for a moment, another human being will look at her and care.

As she pulls herself up to sit on the bed, the woman's eyes open, and her heart floods with love. This is what she has been waiting for, what makes her struggle through the house worthwhile. The woman tries to speak, but no words come out. She is not disappointed, because she expected this, and because there is no time for disappointment. She leans forward and kisses the woman, putting into it all the feelings she has no time to speak. The woman takes a shallow breath, and she realizes that they are out of time.

She forces herself to her feet, hating that her reprieve is over, and gently lifts the woman from the bed. The woman seems to weigh practically nothing, and she does not know if this is a trick of her mind or not. In the end, she does not care, because it allows her to shoulder her precious burden and get them out of the house.

The journey back through the house always seems to take much less time than the journey inward, and she is grateful for this when the pain returns full force. She nearly falls to her knees, but knowing that that would be the end of them both helps her keep her feet.

By the time they reach the door, she has begun to think that she will not make it, that this will be the day she fails in her task. She looks down at the woman cradled in her arms and vows that today will not be that day. Once they are out of the house, the pain lessens, though she feels so tired she can barely move. Still, she gets them safely to the stairs and begins the arduous climb back up.

She does not notice the cold, lifeless blue of the world around her, nor the dark sphere in the chamber above the house. If she did, she might wonder about the sphere, and about the creeping red glow that begins to surround it as she climbs. But she cannot and does not see it, so she continues to climb for the only reason she has. The woman.

As she nears the top, where she can finally rest again, the lights in the house begin to dim, and the sphere brightens even further. When she approaches the door, it swings open at the lightest touch of her hand, and she sobs, grateful that the journey is over. The chamber remains as dark as ever, but she knows it well, and is able to lay the woman on the bed just inside the door before collapsing there herself.

The door swings closed on its own, and as it clicks shut, the sphere explodes into a bright ball of light and the sun crests the horizon. The doors to the chambers that hold the darkened house and held the sphere quietly shut themselves in preparation for the new day.

She does not see any of this, lying as she is in her darkened chamber on the cusp of sleep. Tomorrow night, she knows, she will wake alone and the journey will begin anew. Perhaps tomorrow she will arrive earlier. Perhaps the woman will have a chance to speak. Perhaps...